Halfback spot troubling Blues selectors - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Halfback spot troubling Blues selectors

By Adrian Proszenko 04/06/2006 06:43:33 PM Comments (0)

Craig Gower has been rated an "80 or 90 per cent chance" of being fit enough to play in State of Origin II in Brisbane next Wednesday as NSW selectors agonise over whether to take a chance on the Penrith halfback.

Gower was unable to play in Sunday's 29-22 loss to Manly and opposing halfback Matt Orford muddied the selection waters by producing a solid display for the Sea Eagles.

Panthers doctor James Harrison said he expected Gower to recover sufficiently from the knee injury which cost him a spot in the opening game of the series to be training by mid-week.

"He'd be an 80 or 90 per cent chance he'd be right for that game," Harrison said of the Suncorp Stadium clash against Queensland.

"We're just taking it really easy on him so it gives (the knee) a chance to settle down again.

"He'd have to start mid-week ... he won't be doing any weight-bearing stuff till then."

Asked if Gower could have played if it was a grand final or Origin series decider, Harrison said: "That's a good question - I'm not sure, probably not."

The halfback spot is the most contentious decision for NSW selectors.

Fourth-choice halfback Finch did a tremendous job in game one after being drafted into the side on match eve, although selectors indicated they will ask Harrison for a prognosis on Gower before naming the side.

Finch submitted an average performance in the Sydney Roosters' loss to Melbourne, but coach Ricky Stuart backed him to do the job against the Maroons.

"I thought he played well," Stuart said.

"I can't see it (selection) being a problem, his last two games have been good games and he had a terrific Origin match, so it's up to selectors."

Despite picking up an quadriceps cork in his opening tackle against the Panthers, Orford made a last-ditch bid for the No.7 jersey. The injury limited his kicking game, but he still steered the Sea Eagles around the park well and is in line for consideration.

"Hopefully my time comes soon," Orford said.

"Mate, we'll see what happens but I'll have my fingers crossed.

"We had a good win and I don't think I did my chances any harm today."

Orford said he had fully recovered from the hip flexor injury which ruled him out of Game I and that the latest injury wouldn't be a problem.

"It was frustrating not being able to do everything I wanted to (today), but it looks like it's just a niggle and I will definitely be right."

St George Illawarra prop Luke Bailey is almost certain to go into the NSW side for injured backrower Luke O'Donnell (thumb), with versatile forwards Steve Simpson or Willie Mason to shift into the back row.

Bailey has been the joint venture club's best forward since returning from injury and suspension two weeks ago, the 26-year-old making 35 tackles and running for 223 metres from 22 hit-ups against Parramatta on Friday night.

Dragons teammate Matt Cooper, who was originally named in the NSW side before withdrawing from a hamstring strain, is less likely to force his way back in after returning against the Eels.

The Test centre will struggle to unseat winger Eric Grothe, who played strongly for the Blues and has continued that form over the past two club games.

However Dragons coach Nathan Brown pushed for both Cooper and Bailey to get a call-up when the side is named on Monday.

"Luke Bailey and Coops have played in the last two Origin series and if both were fit they would have played," Brown said.

"I thought Coops was really good (on Friday night)."

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